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Jones inflicts beautiful `Broken Hearts'.

Byline: Craig S. Semon

COLUMN: TRACKS

"...Little Broken Hearts"

Norah Jones (Blue Note)

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When your heart is broken, you can either wallow in a pool of self-pity (been there, done that), try to pick up the pieces and start anew (ditto) or seek out bloody vengeance and add so-called innocents to the body count (hmmm).

On the best moments of "...Little Broken Hearts," Norah Jones actually favors the latter. While she slowly loses her mind on "...Little Broken Hearts," Jones never completely loses her cool or composure, even when she chillingly threatens to make mincemeat out of her lover's mistress. Who would have ever guessed that buried deep inside the doe-eyed daughter of sitar master Ravi Shankar was a psycho ex-girlfriend waiting to get out?

Despite being the incarnation of squeaky clean cuteness (which, compounded with her chart-topping success, makes her even cuter, if that's at all possible), the 33-year-old, ivory-tickling chanteuse has a lousy track record when it comes to men, case in point, her back-to-back break-up albums inspired by two different double-crossers. From the sexy cover-art that spoofs the movie poster for Russ Meyer's 1965 sexploitation flick "Mudhoney" (right down to the color crayon teardrop) to trading in her girl-next-door-wholesomeness for a totally unglued and gritty vindictiveness, Jones' messy hair (and messy personal affairs) makeover is her most appealing persona yet.

On this nifty collaboration with Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells fame, Jones finds herself in a state where her idealistic heart is broken but her intellectual mind is working overtime. No longer merely a consummate daydreamer, incurable romantic and idealistic youth, Jones reveals a tortured side of her delicate psyche that fans never knew existed, a side where delusional nightmares, home invasions and homicidal rage have taken the place of domesticated bliss, romantic getaways and just hanging out. While "...Little Broken Heart" has its share of quiet heartbreak associated with a bad breakup, it often showcases the sublime darkness that festers in one's tortured thoughts.

Jones wakes up to find her two-timing louse of a lover stayed out all night on the leadoff track, "Good Morning." Deciding it's time to walk away from a bad situation, Jones scolds, "More loving is all I was after/But you couldn't give it/So I'm moving on." With a smoky allure in her voice, Jones yearns for the love and respect she so rightly deserves. She reveals her innermost heartache and disappointment over a tranquil blend of swooning cello, gurgling synths and fluttering guitar riffs that gives the song a dreamlike quality and sets the mood for what's going to happen next.

On the title track, "Little Broken Hearts," Jones' heartbreak has festered into a fevered, phantasmagorical nightmare in which all the little broken hearts of the world (not people with broken hearts, mind you, but broken hearts) form a shaky alliance. If that wasn't fantastical enough, these brooding organs arm themselves with knives and set out on a bloody rampage against their tormentors in the cover of night. Jones, who sympathizes with these blood-thirsty bleeding hearts (and secretly rooting for them because she is one), muses, "When the beautiful awake, and see the sadness in their eyes/Will they want to find a way to make it all right?/Only the fallen need to rise, but what if lightning strikes them twice?" In the end, you won't look at a Valentine the same ever again.

Jones finds out her lover has secretly test-driven and plans to trade her in for a younger, sleeker model on "She's 22." Despite being betrayed, Jones wrestles with how to turn off one's feeling and bite one's head off. Jones snaps, "I'm holding on to a thing that's wrong `cause we don't belong/But you like my songs and you made me happy/Does she make you happy?" While her beauty is beguiling, the song could use a little more bile.

Her internal GPS (which she keeps next to her biological clock) tells Jones it's time to go on the wanderlust or bust lament, "Out on the Road." Acknowledging she never wanted to be taken (but now she's feeling so left out), Jones hops into her car with a half-full tank of gas and long stretch of highway as far as the eye can see. While she triumphantly declares "Out on the Road" alongside a chug-a-lug, electric guitar rhythm, the little voice in her head counters, "but with nowhere to go."

The album's pleasant pop placebo is the irresistible single, "Happy Pills." With her desperate pleas juxtaposed with a peppy melody of bouncy bass lines and swirling synths, Jones passionately pleads, "Please just let me go now/Please just let me go," while her heartfelt emphasis will make you fall in love with her all over again.

America's sweetheart turns American psycho on the sick and twisted "Miriam." Here, Jones is as cool as a cucumber as she cunningly chastises and threatens to give her boyfriend's mistress her just desserts. And we're not talking tiramisu here. As the song's tension builds, Jones seductively purrs, "Oh, Miriam, that's such a pretty name/And I'll keep saying it until you die/Miriam, you know you done me wrong/I'm gonna smile when you say goodbye/You know you done me wrong/I'm gonna smile when I take your life." Yikes! Her methodical madness is enough to give Showtime's resident psychopath Dexter a bad case of the willies.

Everything seems fine and dandy for Jones' fairytale wedding day that is, until the church starts to spontaneously combust on the album's closer, "All A Dream." With her subconscious thoughts running amuck, Jones is reunited with her deceitful lover (alas, in happier times) only for things to get unbearable and hell fiery again. Pouring her guts out alongside an ominous mix of snarly guitar licks and percolating bass lines, Jones questions, "How long does it take to fight this weakness/And tell him to guard me, `Cause God knows I'm sorry.'" You my dear, have nothing to be sorry about.

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ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Norah Jones' newest album is "...Little Broken Hearts."
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 10, 2012
Words:1032
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